The Evolution of TV's ‘Very Special Episode’

Before Cast Away and Captain Phillips, before he waxed inspirational over boxes of chocolates in Forrest Gump or flirted online with Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail, Tom Hanks was drunk Uncle Ned on the ’80s sitcom Family Ties. At first, the show played his liquor-fueled antics for comedy, setting the audience at ease—until one episode with an emotional scene in which he backhanded his nephew Alex, played by Michael J. Fox, across a coffee table in front of his family. Chastened by the...

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